GLOUCESTER captain Marco Bortolami has been named Italian player of 2006 by the coaches in the Italian Championship.
Bortolami, who has led Gloucester to second place in the Guinness Premiership following his summer move to Kingsholm, won the award from all the current players playing in Italy and abroad.
He was nominated thanks to his leadership qualities at both club and international level and for his outstanding contribution to the Italian team in the 2006 Six Nations.
Bortolami told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk "I would like to thank all the coaches who voted for me, I always work hard and it nice to see that people appreciate me.
"The Italian team and Gloucester Rugby are very important because they gave me the possibility to play very good rugby. It is a huge honour for me to be captain of my country and also Gloucester and I always give my utmost to both teams."
Gloucester's head coach Dean Ryan added: "Marco certainly deserves this accolade - he would be an asset to any side in the Six Nations and has been instrumental for us this season."
Fly-half Billy Burns was named Man of the Match after the 35-14 European Rugby Challenge Cup victory over Stade Rochelais on Thursday evening, and was full of praise for all his team mates for the win after a short turnaround.
Gloucester have been in good form in recent weeks, but Backs Coach Tim Taylor knows that the Cherry and Whites will have to be at their best on Thursday evening (kick off 7:45pm) against a Stade Rochelais side flying high this season.
Speaking to GRTV after the bonus point win over Bristol, back row Lewis Ludlow revealed that despite a tricky first half, Gloucester backed their skills to come through, a faith that was evident in a strong second half showing.
Willi Heinz scored Gloucester's second try as the Cherry and Whites overturned a disappointing first 40 minutes and 0-6 half time deficit, to earn a 26-18 Aviva Premiership victory over Bristol Rugby on Saturday.
Gloucester's much changed side had to overcome conceding an early try on Thursday evening, but responded in style to down Stade Rochelais by 35 points to 14 in the European Rugby Challenge Cup and set up a mouthwatering return fixture next weekend.
After taking 11 points from their last three games in the Aviva Premiership, including bonus point wins against Wasps and Bristol, Gloucester will be looking to continue their good form when they welcome La Rochelle to Kingsholm.